WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior U.S. lawmaker on Thursday ordered the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to hand over all personal emails that he sent for business purposes, as part of a new probe into whether the derivatives regulator was dodging federal transparency laws.
CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler frequently communicated with staff using a personal email account, an internal report into the collapse of futures broker MF Global found last week.
According to Congressman Darrell Issa, a California Republican, that raised the suspicion that Gensler was trying to shield those emails from journalists, the industry and the general public, who can request any official communication under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
Issa, who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, now wants Gensler to provide all emails he sent from personal accounts to agency staff, he said in a letter to Gensler on Thursday.
The request was “an effort to better understand whether your use of personal email to conduct official business was mere imprudence, or part of a larger scheme to defeat federal transparency laws,” the letter said.
CFTC spokesman Steve Adamske declined to comment.
Last week’s report by the inspector general of the CFTC, Roy Lavik, was part of a broader report into whether the agency made any missteps into how it regulated MF Global.
The report questioned whether it was proper for Gensler to recuse himself from handling MF Global MFGLQ.PK, which collapsed in 2011, only after he played a prominent role in the events leading up to the firm’s bankruptcy.
Gensler decided to distance himself from the brokerage only after it collapsed, and after Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, publicly raised concerns over his prior business relationship with MF Global Chief Executive Jon Corzine.
The report also questioned his use of personal email to communicate with staff, saying the practice was discouraged by government policy. At the same time, however, Lavik said there was “nothing that appeared corrupt” about what happened.
When questioned about it, Gensler told Lavik he used his private email because he did not know how to access his work e-mail from home. He has since ceased the practice.
Gensler, an Obama appointee, is unpopular among Republican politicians for his aggressive reform of Wall Street.
Lavik’s report had itself been triggered by a request from another Republican lawmaker, Alabama Senator Richard Shelby.
MF Global sought Chapter 11 protection on October 31, 2011, after several frantic days of shuffling around money and seeking a buyer as bets the firm had made on European sovereign debt went sour.
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Douwe Miedema; Editing by Alden Bentley and Tim Dobbyn